PtG Article 20.06.2008

Acosta voluntarily gives up presidency of the FIVB

What critics found unlikely has now turned into fact: Ruben Acosta has decided to leave the presidency of the International Volleyball Federation (FIVB) at the end of the Beijing Olympics. He says he wants to make room for a new era, but his successor Wei Jizhong will mainly focus on “implementing and accomplishing all the projects already initiated by Dr. Acosta.”

When Ruben Acosta announced his intention to step down as president a month ago, critics saw it a part of a game to quell internal opposition (see FIVB President's plan to retire may just be a power game).

But now the game is up for the 74-year old Mexican who has headed up the FIVB since 1984. At the recent congress in Dubai, he retired so that a “new era can unfold for the FIVB.”

Speculation has been rife about what prompted Acosta’s decision. He went to extreme lengths to ensure that he was the only candidate eligible to stand at the 2006 presidential elections, (see FIVB rules make it impossible to challenge president) and he could have stayed in his position until 2012 as the congress has just approved that elections for the board should follow the cycle of the Summer Olympic Games. There are suggestions that Acosta is seriously ill but nothing has been confirmed.

An opportunity for serious change?

Over the years, Play the Game has reported on a number of cases where Acosta’s financial dispositions have been criticised or his decision-making has been less than democratic. The question is whether Acosta’s departure will lead to serious changes or not.

In 2005, students from the Danish School of Journalism surveyed ten national volleyball federations to obtain their views on Acosta’s leadership and why they did not challenge him. The federation presidents only wanted to speak off the record and said it was impossible to remove Acosta because he could - and would - dispel any person or federation that he thought discredited the sport.

“For a long time there has been mumblings in the world of volleyball that Mr. Acosta puts money into his own pocket. But the consensus among the members of the FIVB is that there is nothing we can do about it. Sport and sports politics at this level is very big business. It is very dangerous to do something about, so we don’t.” one national volleyball federation president said.

In the survey, the national presidents also said they would prefer a much more open and democratic leadership in the FIVB. These federations may have been handed a golden opportunity as Ruben Acosta and his wife Malou are now stepping down from the throne voluntarily.

Acosta will be Honorary Life President

The new president of FIVB is former vice-president Jizhong Wei from China who will preside over the organisation until the next elections in 2012.

However, it is unlikely that change will emanate from Acosta’s 72-year old successor. At a press conference after the congress, Wei said that his task would be to implement and accomplish all the projects already initated by Acosta.

“We may have fresh ideas but these ideas started under the guidelines set up by the president. The most important legacy is the intellectual legacy of Dr. Acosta that has come from 24 years of hard work accumulated. These are my feelings as I take the baton from the hand of the president,” Wei told the press conference.

Wei may also be pressed for time in his new role. He is already president of the Asian Volleyball Confederation, president of the Chinese Taekwondo Association and an executive board member of the Olympic Council of Asia.

The transfer of power from Acosta to Wei will take place on August 24. After that Acosta will take up a position as FIVB Honorary Life President and the Executive Committee has invited him to continue guiding the organisation.